Nanci Griffith: Last of the true believers

18th August 2021

Is Nanci Griffith's Cause of Death Related to a Health Problem? - US day  News

A Personal Tribute

One of the best Sundays I ever experienced was in Nashville, Tennessee. A friend and I were on a road trip, and we had driven up from Atlanta, on route to Memphis, New Orleans and the wide open road.

Sundays in London in the late 80s and early 90s were dire; shops were closed, no football and people were either hungover or dreading the grim imminent Monday morning feeling.

Yet here were were, downtown Nashville, wearing shirt sleeves, sitting on a porch outside a store, sun shining, just passin’ the time and chewin’ the fat. Along comes a fine Southern gentleman, tips his hat to us, smiles and says, “Howdy.” Later, mid afternoon, we popped into a small bar, took an ice-cold beer and began talking with a local. Suddenly he excused himself as it was his turn to take the stage and play, and he dedicated a song to his, “Two new friends all the way from England.” The rest of the bar looked over, clapped and smiled.

CUT TO

London, some months later. It’s autumn, I’m living in a claustrophobic bedsit in the East End of London. The couple in the next room were constantly, and loudly, fighting. The house next door had a burglar alarm that frequently went off in the early hours, and I was working, six days a week, in an unspeakable low-paid job. And it was cold, wet and miserable.

I desperately needed to rekindle my USA vibe. ‘Twin Peaks’ was just starting on TV, but the high-rise council tower blocks made the reception almost unwatchable. Luckily, serendipitously, when I was at the library, going through the small music section (we were allowed to take out two items, price 20p each, 30p for a double cassette or LP) I saw a small black cassette tape by Nanci Griffith. It was the live recording, ‘One Fair Summer Evening’ (1988). Life suddenly became a whole lot better.

I knew very little about her, though I was vaguely aware as I had briefly worked in a record shop and we stocked her most recent LP, ‘Storms’ (1989). Now I was hooked, the intimate warm way Nanci introduces the songs, each one being a self-contained short story. Farmers barely surviving the dust-bowl years, lovers going through relationship troubles, or people just wanting to forget their troubles and take a ‘spin on a red brick floor’.

One of the standout tracks on the live tape was ‘Love at the Five and Dime’ which was on the ‘Last of the True Believers’ LP (1986). Appropriately enough, I picked up the cassette from my local Woolworth’s store in the Leytonstone High Road.

Nanci Griffith Last of The True Believers Rounder Europa Reuc1013 Cassette  Album for sale online | eBay

A year or two later, and Nanci came to London, performing at the Albert Hall. As she remarked during the concert, she’d come a long way from playing small clubs in Austin, Texas to this iconic venue in London.

Nanci Griffith & The Blue Moon Orchestra Royal Albert Hall Magazine Advert  49682 on eBid United Kingdom | 139725431

I moved to Berlin in the mid 90s, and stayed with a friend who only had a few cassettes, but one of them was the Grammy-winning ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’ (1993). He later formed a band and they covered ‘Spin on a Red Brick Floor’. We only had the live version to listen to, and we played it over and over, trying to get the lyrics. Some of them were impenetrable, and my friend just made noises and nonsensical sounds.

On a visit to London, I managed to pick up some second-hand LPs, including ‘Once in a Very Blue Moon’ (1984) which had a lyric sheet and I was therefore able to tell my buddy that he should be singing:

“Honey, here’s to you, sleep tight,” not “And a hoochey, coochey coo,” and:

“That hot Houston neon buzzing,” not “ahahahahahahaha hahah.”

NanciGriffithOnceinaVeryBlueMoon.jpg

Another LP I found, and probably my favourite cover, is ‘Lone Star State of Mind’ (1987).

So now, here’s two songs I’d be honoured to recommend (unfortunately I’m not able to post links to YouTube here).

The first is an album track from the ‘Lone Star’ LP, called ‘Beacon Street’.

The second is a live version of ‘Love at the Five and Dime’.

I hope that you love them as much as I do.

Goodbye, Nanci, love forever xo xo

Nanci Griffith July 6 1953 – August 13 2021

Love and Chaos. Part Nine (F) Richard 1

14th August 2021

Berlin Christmas Markets Walking Tour
Berlin at Christmas. Google Images

Part Nine. Berlin. December 1995

Chris spent Friday evening at Rodenberg Strasse, abstaining from alcohol, and reading until Richard returned from Steglitz, after which they shared a couple of easy beers. The music was constant but soft, limited to Richard’s few CDs. The next morning, Chris was flying back to London and Richard had all day to fret about his date with Johanna.

In the morning, dark and bitter, Richard, light and optimistic, walked with Chris up Schönhauser Allee to the Strassenbahn (tram) stop on Wisbyerstrasse, slushing through the snow, head down, shoulders hunched up. Chris tried moving from foot to foot to keep warm, but almost slipped on the treacherous ice. Before too long, the faint smoky glow of an approaching tram, doors opening with an hangover-splitting shriek but the inviting warmth of a heated vehicle.

Richard was travelling as far as Osloer Strasse the northern terminus of the U 9 Line. From there, Chris had a mere two stops to the interchange with the U 6, then four more to get the airport bus.

“So, tea, naturally, now, drinks … what do you have in mind ?”

“How about some Pimms ?”

“Didn’t know you liked Pimms.”

“Don’t know if I do. Never tried it. Just sounds so English. Ah, forget it. Everything’s cheaper here. Suppose Stilton’s out of the question.”

“I’m not bringing sodding Stilton back in my bag, I’ll get arrested. Books ?”

Richard named some Physics text books.

“Man, those things weigh a ton. All right, let me see. Oh, here we are. Sure you don’t wanna come to the airport, it’ll be fun.”

Richard said goodbye to Chris and watched him descend into the U-Bahn station. Just then, a Strassenbahn appeared, heading back east, and he jumped on, buying some croissants on the way back to his flat. As the coffee was brewing, there was a knock on the door, heavy, forceful, determined.

So Chris had missed the flight, or gotten the date wrong, or forgotten his passport. He pulled his door open, prepared to shout mock obscenities and bemoan the lack of Pimms when he was momentarily silenced. Completely blank for a second or two, and then a warm but confused,

“Silke !”

Standing outside his door, in tight black jeans, a very figure-hugging jacket, and boots that were far too sensual for the ice and muck of Berlin streets, was Silke who, in character, walked straight in and hugged Richard.

“Gehts ? Hey, long time, why don’t you phone, did you forget me ? Was ist ? Coffee ?”

Richard followed her into his own kitchen and, yes, she did look absolutely fantastic in jeans. He allowed himself this unexpected pleasure.

“But, er, Chris isn’t here. He’s just left for the airport.”

“Ja, und ? I speak with you. Oh, croissants, can I have ?”

“For sure. You speak with me. Wow. It’s a Christmas miracle.”

“Ah, mensch, bullshit. So was is with you ? Tell me.”

Naturally, there really wasn’t that much for Richard to tell. Same job, same life, same old Czar Bar. Chris, same job, same life, same old Czar Bar. Except for Johanna, about whom Silke was very curious.

“She lives where ?”

“Is it Marzahn ? Somewhere in the east.”

“Marzahn, schiess ! Have you been there ?”

“No, we always … ‘always’, twice, meet in town. Kreuzberg. In fact, we’re meeting tonight. Third date. Anyway, what’s with you ? Monika said you had a new man.”

“When was this ? You saw Monika ?”

Richard told her about meeting Monika in summer, without elaborating, not that there was any need for restraint. Silke knew everything.

“Ah, so, you know Gabi lives with a lawyer. Is a nice Hausfrau now, never meets. Lorelai went to …”

“I know, Munich.”

“Nein, England. She met a student and now lives in … let me think … Brighton ? Is it nice ?”

“Probably nicer than Marzahn. A student, hey ? What do ya know ?”

“Now we are neighbours.”

“Who ? You’re moving to Brighton. Why’s everyone going to bloody Brighton ?”

“Nein, you and me. I have a new apartment in Greifenhagener Strasse. Just go over Stargarder. By the Cafe Ankhor. You know it ?”

“Yes, remarkably cute waitress who couldn’t care tuppence for me. What else is new ?”

Silke, being unfamiliar with this rhetoric, actually began explaining what was new.

“Aber, ja, Monika, who knows ? I think she is tired. Too many stupid jobs, stupid men. I told her to go back to university. I’m going to. Is there more coffee ?”

An hour or so later, Silke got ready to leave. She made Richard promise to visit her, it was only five minutes away. They hugged and as they did so, they kissed. It was natural. For Richard, it was nice, very, very nice.

Around the same time, Chris was getting ready to board the flight to London. He was pinching himself, remembering to say Lufthansa, not Luftwaffe, and was looking forward to a high of 4 degrees.

Around the same time, in the north Berlin Bezirk of Wedding, Daniel was putting on his coats to call Jeanette. He had his Pfennings and Marks counted out, weighing down his jeans. The telephone that accepted cards was open-air and he would freeze his ears, while the coin-box was in a booth. It would still be freezing but not fatally.

Around the same time, ‘Rough Guide’ clutched in gloved hands, Alan Francis was walking along Danziger Strasse. He would have to move out soon, but Kelly had a room organised for him, across Schönhauser Allee. He saw a cinema over the main road and took it as an auspicious omen. He went to investigate his new neighbourhood.

Around the same time, although on EST, Eric Schwartz threw John Stuart Mill across the room, grabbed a Sam Adams, and planned on, in the morning, hitting a punch bag instead of the books. After Eric had finished Sam Adams Volume II, he felt better and reflected that making people happy, that is, tipsy, was undoubtedly for the greater good. By Volume III, he was wishing that the good people of Boston had tipped John Stuart Mill into the harbour instead of tea and by Volume IV he no longer cared, and was watching whatever was on late night TV.

Back in Berlin, Richard was reflecting on his day. He had seen Chris back to the UK safely. Soberly. He had caught a Strassenbahn immediately. Silke had miraculously reappeared in his life, the lady with Bond-girl legs, and S&M fetish boots, and tonight he was meeting Johanna. The year was ending very well.

IELTS: Animal Magic – Expressions N – Z

12th August 2021

In the morning, my students are like bears with sore heads
Man’s best friend
Newts of the Yuba | South Yuba River Citizens League
I’m a newt, and I’ll have you know I’m totally sober

NEWT: As pissed as a newt – Informal British English meaning to be drunk.

SIDEBAR: This is is very unusual saying, but around 200 years ago, young teenage sailors were known as ‘newts’. It didn’t take much alcohol for these boys to become very drunk, hence the expression.

OWL: To be a night owl – someone who stays up late, maybe all night.

PANDA: To have panda eyes – night owls and insomniacs often have black rings around their eyes, like a panda. I first heard this in Malaysia.

QUAIL: To quail at something – to be afraid or nervous about something.

RED HERRING: A false clue in a mystery or detective story

NOW LET’S TAKE THESE EXPRESSIONS OUT FOR A SPIN

  1. When did you last sleep ? You ____________________________________
  2. The police followed a clue but it was just a _____________________
  3. My neighbour is a real _____________________ playing music all night.
  4. I have toothache but I __________ at going to the dentist.
  5. Did you hear him sing karaoke ? He was ___________________________ !

Are you ready for some more ?

SWAN: Swan song – a final appearance.

TIGER: A tiger mum – a mother who pushes her children to study and study and study.

UNICORN: Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns – sometimes life is hard and we have to deal with problems (tell me about it).

VULTURE: The vultures are circling – vultures wait for animals to die, then they swoop down and eat the dead body, so this expression means something very bad is about to happen.

WHALE: Having a whale of a time – having a wonderful time, really enjoying yourself.

X: Give me a break ! However, check out this little beauty:

This is an X ray tetra, a non-aggressive fish found in the Amazon

YAK: To yak or yakking – to talk non-stop, usually about nothing important.

Yakety Yak - song by The Coasters | Spotify
YAKITY YAK" LYRICS by THE COASTERS: Take out those papers...

ZEBRA: Zebra crossing – black and white marking on the road. In the UK, cars usually stop to allow people to walk safely. In Viet Nam … hhmmmm not so much (i.e. never).

The most famous zebra crossing in the world. From The Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ LP

Speaking of The Beatles, allow me to quote from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

  1. The party was amazing, we all had _________________________
  2. The show was her last ever, it was her ________________________
  3. Will you stop _______ ! I can’t think !
  4. Walk to the ________________________ because this road is dangerous.
  5. She has a _____________________ who makes her study English every day.
  6. The business is losing too much money. The _________________________
  7. I have to pay my rent, my student loan, my electric bill. This is no fun ________________________________________________________
Bye bye from The Monkees

IELTS: Animal Crackers – animal expressions to impress examiners

10th August 2021

This Is Bat Country GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Just because you’re having online classes, with different teachers, (lucky you) doesn’t mean you should stop expanding your knowledge of weird and wacky English expressions, and let me tell you, you won’t find many of these in those cotton-pickin’ textbooks.

English speakers use animals as:

metaphor (my neighbour is a pig)

simile (she drinks like a fish)

idiom (look what the cat dragged in)

adjective form (he is rather bovine – like a cow, she moves with a feline grace – like a cat)

Today, I’m going to introduce you to expressions featuring animals, some of which may not be suitable for polite company …hey, you want to learn REAL English … that’s how we speak !

Now, without further ado …

ANTS: Ants in your pants – when someone can’t keep still, is always moving about which can be very irritating.

BATS: Bat-shit crazy – NOT used in formal, standard English. This is more common in US English to describe someone who is acting very strangely.

CATS: To let the cat out of the bag – to tell a secret, to tell something you were not supposed to disclose.

DOGS: Gone to the dogs – someone or something that was once respectable but is now dirty, useless etc.

ELEPHANT: Couldn’t hit an elephant – implies that someone is very bad at something for example, if they had a rifle they wouldn’t be able to hit a very large target.

SIDEBAR: “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance,” are the famous last words of John Sedgwick, an officer in the Union army in the US Civil War. He meant that the enemy was so far away, they couldn’t possible hit a massive target let alone a single man. Sedgwick was, ironically, shot and killed by the enemy. Read more here:

https://www.phrases.org.uk/famous-last-words/john-sedgwick.html

FISH: Like shooting fish in a barrel – refers to something that is so easy, no effort at all is required to be successful.

An Elephant in My Pajamas: The Misplaced Modifier – Ivy Global Blog
Groucho Barks ?

At this point, time to stop and reflect, practice what you’ve learnt. What expression fits ?

  • He used to be a respectable professional, but his wife left him he began drinking and now he’s _______________________________
  • The bloody woman next to me on the plane just wouldn’t sit still. She had ___________________________________
  • I’m never teaching that class again ! The kids are all __________
  • This job is so easy, it’s _________________________________
  • Oh ! I knew they had a secret. Now the _____________________
  • Don’t worry about Peter, he’s so bad, he _______________________
The quest for best animal joke ever! | Earth Rangers: Where kids go to save  animals!
Hahahah ants in my pants, I love that one !

Ready for some more ? OK, let’s kick it !

GOLDFISH: Living in a goldfish bowl – a life with no privacy, everyone can see what you do, all the time.

HORSE: A dark horse – someone that has hidden talents or abilities

INSECT: Go away, you little insect – not polite, used when someone is making you feel very uncomfortable, or is harassing you.

JACKASS: You jackass ! – again, very informal signifying a silly or stupid person.

LION: Taking the lion’s share – taking the biggest amount of something.

MONKEY: Too much monkey business – too much madness or uncontrollable behaviour

Practice makes perfect so … kick it !

  • You spent $100 on that Relox watch, made in China ! _____
  • Being famous is awful, everyone taking photos all the time, it’s like _____________________________________
  • I can’t work for this company anymore, I don’t trust them, ________________________________________
  • As the CEO, he took ___________________________ of the bonus.
  • I don’t want to buy those cheap fake sunglasses, go away you _________
  • Wow, Julie wrote this ? It’s so good, she’s a real _________________ always so quiet in class.

OK, enough for one blog, I’ll continue N – Z if there’s any interest, I’ll continue N- Z even if there isn’t any interest. Now I gotta prepare for two online classes and a speaking placement test, drink tea (I am English, don’t forget) and hope my internet doesn’t act like a jackass and pack up on me.

Everyone, stay safe and well.

Thank you for visiting this site

Young Learners: Amazing Adjectives

9th August 2021

Movie and TV Cast Screencaps: Maggie Cheung as Flying Snow / Hero (2002) /  32 Screencaps
The amazing Asian actress Maggie Cheung in the famous film ‘Hero’.
The brilliant breathtaking Blues musician Robert Johnson

Adjective Game 1

Let’s start with ‘A’, the first letter. Who knows these adjectives ?

Am__________ (This word means very good, wonderful)

What other adjectives can you think of beginning with ‘a’ ?

Be___________ // (This word means very pretty)

What other adjectives can you think of beginning with ‘b’ ?

Cu__ // Dan______ // ele_____ // fan_______ (very good) // gr_______

// he________ // int_________ // Ja____ (from an Asian country) // ki___ //

la__ // me____ (not clean. Also the name of a talented footballer) //

ner___ // outg______ (opposite of shy) // pop_____ // qui__ // ru__

// sel____ // tal________ // unu_____ // valu____ (costs a lot of money)

Here Are 10 Of The Most Expensive Paintings In The World Right Now

// wea______ (if you can buy the Mona Lisa, you must be extremely wea_____) // Xenop_______ (do not like people from other countries) // ye__ – _____ (lasts for 12 months) // Zamb___ (person from Zambia)

Zambia
Zambia country profile - BBC News

Suitable answers: amazing / beautiful / cute / dangerous / electric / fantastic / greedy, great, Greek / healthy / intelligent / Japanese / kind / lazy / messy / nervous / outgoing /popular / quick / rude / selfish / talkative / unusual / valuable / wealthy / xenophobic / year-long / Zambian

Adjective Game 2

Sentence building using adjectives is very easy. Even using basic adjectives can improve your English. Colours, sizes and where someone is from are all easy adjectives. Look at this example:

The flag is very large and is white with a red circle in the middle. The flag is Japanese.

Look at these flags. Choose one and describe it to the class. Points for the students who guess which flag. Extra points if they know the country.

Adjective Game 3

Describe these people:

Albert Einstein, born in Germany
Usain Bolt, born in Jamaica
Park Soyeon - T-Ara - Posts | Facebook
Park Soyeon from Korea
Omar Sharif born in Egypt
Dr. Vandana Shiva DS.jpg
Vandana Shive from India

Love and Chaos Part 9(E) Chris 1

7th August 2021

Rodenberg Strasse, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Google Images

Part Nine. Berlin. December 1995

“So, have you . . . ?”

“No, early days. Don’t want to rush things.”

“Third date coming up.”

“I know,” Richard replied then, to change the subject, pointed to his new CD player. “What do you think ?”

“Very nice. All you need now are some CD’s.”

“One thing at a time.”

“Yeah,” Chris added, “don’t want to rush things.”

Chris had arrived at Richard’s with a bag of cakes which they had demolished. Fresh coffee perpetually brewed in the kitchen. They took turns making it, and keeping the Ofen stoked. The kitchen door open, gas rings and fire lit to the max, to combat the Berlin winter.

The reason Chris was here was to see when Richard was flying home, so was surprised when he learnt that Richard intended to spend Christmas in Berlin. Chris, however, had to get away. His life depended on it.

Despite the fun of working in the bar, the sense of rebellion he felt by living in a squat, paying no rent or taxes, and a steady supply of one-night stands, he had also experienced the other, less glamorous side.

He felt wretched all the time. Truly wretched trying to keep up with Jake and failing miserably, waking up with Baustelle headaches, frequent vomiting and an increasing sense of paranoia. He rarely felt relaxed, always sure he had done something terrible, but exactly what always eluded him. The only cure seemed to be to get drunk. The cycle continued.

Winter in the squat was no fun, the Ofen inefficient, and he was always too drunk after returning from the bar to spend time lighting it. Burning down the squat house wouldn’t go down too well with the other squatters.

He was wearing clothes far longer than they ought to have been worn, knowing full well that he smelt, but, as he justified, it was only Berlin, and what was the point in wearing fresh, clean clothes if he was only going to the Czar Bar.

He was also imitating Jake’s eating habits, which comprised of fast food exclusively, either burgers or something deep fried from the local Turkish Imbiss. He could feel the spots multiplying on his face.

As for the women, he was getting used to finding an unattractive malodorous naked body snoring next to him, when he was sure he had gone to bed with a far cuter angel, just hours before. The speed at which the women got up, dressed and left indicated that they, too, were less than impressed with their conquest.

To balance this, he would often go to Richard’s, take a bath, spend time in a warm flat, and sleep a little, without having to worry about being woken by some screaming in the Hof, or someone knocking on his door, barging in, shouting in loud German and expecting him to be as lively as he was when working.

Today, there was another purpose; a new travel agents had opened on Richard’s street, and Chris wanted to see if they should book their tickets together.

“So, it’s getting serious ?”

“Yes, it is. You’re right, there are only so many times a guy can play ‘Monster’. I need some new CD’s”

They walked to the travel agents, looking at the posters of sunny, tropical resorts, while the very tall owner, with a very receding hairline ending in very long hair, scrutinised his computer, with almost comic intensity, to find a flight.

“Nice guy,” said Chris, after having bought his ticket. “I especially liked the John Lennon glasses.”

Richard agreed and they walked a little down Schönhauser Allee. They went into one of the Überraschung shops, a ‘surprise’ store filled with household goods at cheap prices, made by companies with very similar names and logos of established brands. They marvelled at the packets of cheap shirts, endless shelves of crockery and gaudy kitsch items that defied description, wondering how such items got designed, manufactured and sold, wondering who would buy them, when a small albeit very well-built old woman barged in between them to grab the last remaining flower pot-vase-thing.

They soon lost enthusiasm for their constitutional, and returned home. Richard left Chris in the flat, to go to work. He felt a bit relieved, as Chris had mentioned checking out universities back home, or at least some courses. He thought about how things were changing. It was now Chris who seemed lost, having no purpose remaining in Berlin. It was now Richards’s turn to be happy, to be in a relationship. This thought made the job bearable. That and the expectation that in Johanna he had found what he had always been looking for; someone beautiful, intelligent, kind and . . . he was allowing himself to believe, falling in love with him.

Lee Scott Revelle R.I.P.

6th August 2021

May be an image of 1 person
No photo description available.

Last Monday, and with great sadness, my friend Pete texted me that our former bandmate, Lee Scott Revelle, had passed away the previous day, Sunday 1st August.

Lee had been hospitalised for a short time with an acute illness. His final Facebook update stated that the doctors were approaching the point when they were running out of options. The next posting was from his family, announcing Lee’s passing.

Lee and I met over our love of the 80s band Echo & the Bunnymen, and we formed a band together, bringing in my buddy Pete on bass. We only wrote a handful of songs, made one demo and played one gig, way out in Essex (east of London) in a sports pavillion. We earnt £1 … split four ways … minus mini cab fare and beers. Not a financial or artistic success, but an experience.

That band didn’t last long, but Lee continued to play, write and perform.

May be an image of 1 person

Pete, who’s also still making music, has an online radio show, and he’s dedicated this week’s one to Lee. Listen to it here:

https://www.mixcloud.com/flatwoundssounds/flatwounds-sounds-miscellany-show-40-5th-august-2021-rip-lee-scott-revelle/

No photo description available.

Young Learners: Sentence building and Zoom warm up games.

2nd August 2021

A selection of short exercises to develop sentence building and encourage use of adjectives. Games aimed at students aged 7 – 12

Warm up game 1

Who can name a country or city beginning with ‘A’ … ? ‘B’ … ?

Warm up game 2

What country do you associate with:

  1. sushi 2. hot curry 3. the White House 4. kangaroos 5. pizza ?

Warm up game 3

What animal is the biggest ?

How many eyes do most spiders have ?

What is more dangerous, a crocodile or an alligator ?

What does a camel have in its hump ?

What is the only bird that can fly backwards ?

What do pandas eat ? What do you call a baby kangaroo ?

Answers: A blue whale (up to 98 feet) // 8 eyes // crocodiles // camels store fat NOT water // hummingbird // bamboo // joey

Warm up game 4

Adjectives – words to describe a person or a thing

Example: The Kangaroo is small // cute // funny

Name an adjective beginning with ‘A’ … // ‘B’ … // etc

Students should be instructed to write down new words and then try to use them

Sentence building 1

What is your favourite film (or TV show, book) and why ?

EXAMPLE: I really love Star Wars because it is amazing and has many exciting space fights. The actor is incredible and the Princess is so beautiful. The film is sometimes funny and sometimes scary.

Sentence building 2

Tell me about your family ?

What do they look like ?

What are they like ?

EXAMPLE: I love my mummy very much because she helps me with my homework. She is small and has long black hair. She is friendly and happy. She likes to play badminton because it is healthy and fun.

Sentence building 3

Write interesting stories about these photos. Use adjectives and long sentences

Premium Vector | Cute elephant character playing music and singing isolated  .
Asian Woman Eating Pizza In Restaurant Stock Video - Download Video Clip  Now - iStock

Love and Chaos Part 9(D) Julie 1

30th July 2021

Part Nine. Berlin. December 1995

Julie gravely wanted the run to be over, doubting if the cast would hold together for the projected three nights. There were times when she doubted the cast would even hold it together for the first night. She thought of an expression that Alan had taught her; Brecht would be ‘turning over in his grave,’ and smiled, calmly applying make-up in a vortex of disorder.

The actor playing Baal was walking in diagonal paths up and down the room, bellowing out his vocal exercises. Another actor, playing Johannes, was in a side room, running around in circles, reciting all his lines as quickly as possible. He first tried this without shoes, but had slid into a wall, and had almost broken his hand. An older woman, playing Emilie had found an old, out-of-tune piano, and was irritating everyone by singing in an equally out-of-tune voice.

Most of the other men were simply in the bar, half-in or half-out of costume, drinking beer and speaking loudly, half-sober or half-drunk. One proclaimed to the young barmaid, that he would go straight from the bar to the stage as, (here implication) he had so much talent, he didn’t need to warm-up. The part was beneath him, anyway.

The Assistant Director was desperately trying to get the lighting man to focus on the job, giving him the cues when the lights should go on and off, but instead, the technician was brusquely dismissive, as the week before there had been a performance with thirty-seven light changes, executed perfectly. The A.D. looked at the desk which was a mass of wires and sockets and beer cans and ash and Rizlas, and visibly abandoned all hope.

The Director was everywhere, shouting at everyone, making elaborate theatrical gestures of what he presumed were indications of artistic genius. He held the script as a weapon, thumping it on occasion, clutching it to his breast on others. He was angry at the cast, some of who still hadn’t appeared. The theatre manager kept coming in, asking them when they would be going on, but really to catch a look at Julie.

The Director was now making a laboured display of appearing to remain calm under insurmountable pressure, and asked the manager if the bar staff could change the music from Portishead to the Kurt Weill tape, to set the mood. The manager said he would, immediately. Nothing changed. Portishead prevailed.

The theatre was on the top floor of the third Hof of a backstreet off Warschauer Str. Alan was glad to have Vincent as guide because he would never have found it. Vincent was very dismissive of the whole project, mainly because he couldn’t believe he hadn’t been asked, and had already decided it was a doomed production, but he was going, magnanimously, to support Julie.

Alan enjoyed being with Vincent in that it got him noticed and introduced to all the creative people in east Berlin, and many attractive women, who warmed to him when they heard he was a director. Yet he resisted all the subtle and blatant temptations of Berlin, remaining focused and sober.

In the bar, Vincent was performing, ordering beers, running his hand through his hair, calling out to people he recognised, explaining that he was here to see Julie, to support this little effort, no, he wouldn’t be performing tonight, yes, he knew what a massive disappointment that was for everyone.

Alan looked through the crudely photocopied program and saw Julie’s photo. He tried reading, but the German was too hard for him. He had asked his sister to send over an English translation of the play, which he had read and re-read, in preparation.

He had wanted to take a seat in the front row but, being with Vincent, had to sit in the back. That helped him decide to return, alone, which he did. Every night.

The play was unbalanced; some of the actors were quite good, some appalling, and at times there appeared to be no direction at all. Some of the minor characters forgot their lines, or spoke over each other, and decided to turn this into part of the show, turning to the audience and laughing. Vincent translated;

“He said he was being, ‘Very Brechtian.’ Verdammt Arschloch.”

But even with little German, and without bias, it was obvious to Alan that Julie was the only one on stage who merited being there. The difference between her and the rest of the cast was simply embarrassing.

Afterwards, a crowd of people had commandeered a corner of the bar, actors, their friends and various people on the fringes of the Berlin scene. Some girls were taking photographs of the cast, and a greasy young man was interviewing the director for a local paper, circulation in double figures.

Alan was elated when Julie sat next to him. Despite her well-founded reservations, she knew she had performed well, and was glowing with a natural high. She even allowed herself to be photographed and took several glasses of Sekt. She got up to kiss various people and waved and smiled. Alan found everything enchanting. Yet he was very uncomfortable when Vincent approached and, after embracing and complimenting, sat with his arm around her. It was uncomfortable that she let him keep it there.

Julie waved to one of the actors who was just leaving. She explained to Alan;

“We call him Matthäus, after some footballer. It is because on the first day, he arrived in a tracksuit, and thought we were all going to do lots of exercises. He started stretching and everything. It was so funny.”

Julie thought that the first night mistakes could be addressed, but they just intensified over the next two nights. Some actors were not just late, they failed to appear at all, and the Director wanted to make changes to the script, almost leading to a fight between him and the main actor. Matthäus was now ignoring everyone but Julie, simply not willing to waste his time on anyone else. The Assistant Director had either been sacked, or had quit depending on what story one chose to believe, and the actress playing Johanna had gone home with the theatre manager, just to get away from the actor playing Johannes, who had been seen smashing empty beer bottles in the car park, the previous evening. And the bar staff still played Portishead.

Four days later, Julie met Alan for a coffee. He had a copy of the local paper with the review. Kelly had translated for him, and it was generally supportive, though only Julie, in the role of Sophie, received a namecheck. Only Matthäus sent her a congratulatory note.

She was still glowing, though now it was more from relief. She had changed her hairstyle, which Alan complimented her on.

“Yes, it was an experience, but I don’t think I would want to go through it again.”

Alan showed her the paper and was surprised that she covered her face when he pointed out her name. Instead, he asked her what was wrong and what she, as an actress would want from a theatre piece. He already had an idea.

“It was too big, too many people. We never had a full rehearsal. I often had to read lines with a stand-in. It is hard, it is impossible to build up the character and the . . . “

“Inter-action ?”

“Ja, danke, inter-action. The Director wanted a different actor for every part, but we could easily have played other small parts. Then with so many people, and many of them only having one scene …”

“They get bored and start drinking.”

“Genau ! (exactly). People try to rehearse, and I just hear other actors laughing in the background, sometimes speaking louder than the actors. When we say to be not so loud, they get angry, and leave. But, when it worked, it was . . . just wonderful.”

“So you would do some more theatre ?”

“Ja, of course. But not with so many. It is just too impossible.”

Richard put a copy of Rimbaud on the table.

“’A Season in Hell’. Do you know it ?”

“I know the name but I haven’t read it. OK, what part do I have ?” Julie asked as she took some coffee, hiding the smile.

When her office manager asked her why she was reading poetry, Julie explained that her boyfriend was taking a course and that she was reading it to keep him company. This of course backfired, as her manager made disparaging comments about students and their financial insecurity, and if he needed her to help him, maybe he wasn’t intelligent enough to be a student in the first place. He would look at her with a meaningful nod, then leave her to ponder his sage words.

The fictitious boyfriend was meant to serve two purposes; one to explain how she spent her free time, the other to deter the men in the office from hitting on her. Neither was successful. She still had to listen to the senior staff talk about how empty their lives were, before they asked her to take coffee with them, or found pretexts where she may have to stay behind after work.

Other people asked her what she and the boyfriend had done, where he had taken her, what their plans were. Julie did her unstimulating work, but didn’t feel close to anyone there, certainly didn’t want to share anything of her personal life. She couldn’t even think of anyone from the office coming to see her, or discussing rehearsing and acting.

Even though the new piece was to be in Friedrichshain, and she worked in Charlottenburg, west Berlin, she was still scared that someone may, just possibly, see her name on the handmade posters Kelly was making up for the new piece. The fact that they would only go up in Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Kreutzberg didn’t really calm her. She insisted her name be much smaller than Vincent’s, justifying it as he had a larger role, but Alan over-ruled her, reminding her that she now was a name, referring to the newspaper piece. Vincent didn’t seem to appreciate that so much, but knew that if it generated interest, in would work out well for him, too.

Before rehearsals started, Julie has been quite forceful, saying that Alan was the director and that he would have final say, but that any mistakes would ultimately be down to him, if the actors followed his instructions. This was a notice to Vincent not to try taking over, and to boost Alan’s confidence. Of the two, it was Alan who, in her opinion, had a real future. He put the project first.

Alan had finished the script, adapting the poem for the two actors. Vincent would open and close the performance, but the central piece would be Julie’s, a monologue from the Ravings 1 section of the poem, ‘The Foolish Virgin / The Infernal Bridegroom’

Vincent had booked a space, the usual bar where he performed, for three nights in early January. There would be a week to rehearse, then a break, as both Alan and Julie would leave Berlin for Christmas.

Julie was excited by the part, and loved hearing Alan talk, watching how this normally quiet, almost withdrawn man suddenly became so animated, gesturing and almost falling over his words as idea stumbled over idea.

Alan knew he could trust both of them to learn their parts and to rehearse. He couldn’t even imagine how Julie had coped with the shambles of Baal. The only problem was the situation with Vincent, his actor, and Kelly, his flatmate. Vincent was a very attractive man, and got a lot of attention, but recently his indiscretions hadn’t been so discrete, and in such a small city like Berlin, it was only a matter of time before Kelly found out.

But, for the moment, Alan had the cast for his first play, Vincent had a new piece to talk about and Julie had another part she hoped to keep secret from the people in the office.

Book into Film: The Painted Bird

29th July 2021

9780553124606 - THE PAINTED BIRD by Jerzy Kosinski

Over twenty years ago I read ‘The Painted Bird’, by the Polish-born author Jerzy Kosinski and, as I was reading it, I knew the images, the emotional impact, would be indelible. Last night, I watched the 2019 film version, and now I hope this blog introduces the work to a new audience.

The book cover succinctly simmarises the tale. The setting is an unspecified area of eastern Europe during World War II. The Nazis are invading, bringing with them their ideology of racial superiority. The Communists are pushing back from the east, while brigands of bandits are attacking hamlets. Destruction, torture and violence. Mankind without the humanity, a return or regression to barbarity. There is – almost – no right or wrong, merely who is the strongest.

The film opens with a boy, Joska, running through some woods, clutching a pet stoat. We can tell he is being chased, although we do not see by whom. Inevitably, he is out-run and out-numbered and Joska is beaten by boys his own age, who take the animal. This is war time, maybe the animal will serve as food for starving villagers … but, no … the animal is gruesomely tortured. This scene encapsulates the theme: brutal violence for the sake of brutal violence. This is the world Joska was born into. No compassion, no empathy, no mercy; kill or be killed.

The Nazis, foreshadowed early in the film by a solitary plane observed by Joska, are just one of many threats. This world, this mid-C20th Europe, is dominated by ignorance, superstition and cruelty, it is the Bible of the Old Testament, animated by Bruegel and Bosch.

Already we have seen boys, children, symbols of innocence and purity, torturing for pleasure. Joska moves from place to place, at the mercy of adults, and cannot comprehend the brutality that is done to him or in his presence. He witnesses a miller, obsessively jealous of his young wife, rip the eyes out of a young apprentice because he dared look at the mistress. While the miller is beating his wife, Joska runs away, looking for the apprentice. The boy tries to help by giving the apprentice some round objects to replace his eyes, then continues his flight realising he has, inadvertently, caused more pain.

Each act of violence serves as an allegory of that world. Blindness, not knowing, not wanting to know. Genocide victims are numbered in hundreds of thousands, in millions. Such figures are beyond our comprehension, so the power of the story comes from seeing evil on an individual level. We become desensitised viewing death en masse. Watching a solitary act of brutality has a far more powerful effect. We feel the victim’s pain and fear, we abhor the evil personified by small groups of people. People who look the same as us.

The title is taken from an episode in which a seemingly pleasant older man collects small birds. He derives pleasure from painting one, then releasing it into the flock. The other birds sense something different and begin attacking. Just one of many incidents of cruelty, but a suitable metaphor, that justifies its prominence.

However, there are some glimpses of hope. A Nazi, expected to kill Joska because he is Jewish, allows him to run away, instead firing two shots into the air. Later a Russian sniper takes to Joska, protecting him. When four Russian soldiers are attacked by locals, the sniper calmly goes to the village and with a long-range rifle, kills four people. He teaches Joska the, “Eye for an eye,” policy.

Read as an allegory, we see all vices and perversions, the depravity that humans can sink to. Yet we also, fleetingly, see hope, warmth, friendship and compassion. We see how insidious intolerance and prejudice can be and what evils it can inspire.

‘The Painted Bird’ is intense in the extreme. For me, it is an unforgettable experience.